Festival of Homiletics, Thursday’s Thoughts

Thursday was filled with pretty diverse speakers; a preaching professor, a local pastor, a president of a seminary and a New Testament professor. Almost sounds a bad joke….you know the one that starts with all of them walking into a bar. My colleague, Randy Quinn, senior pastor of West Heights UMC, posts weekly “Quips and Quotes.” I love reading them each week and I have kind of used that idea in the back of my head as I have shared my ramblings from the Festival of Homiletics. I don’t share all my notes, just a few I intend to chew on some more over the next days and weeks.

 Choosing each day from 2 speakers or worship services is a exercise in discernment, because they are all so good. The other exercise in figuring out what to right down because the information comes so quickly and I hate missing any part of it. Having said that, by mid afternoon yesterday my mind was mush and I just couldn’t quite write things down. The delight at the end of the day was the Beer and Hymns event, followed with good time with colleagues.

Karoline Lewis:

Karoline focused on incarnation and proclamation. Why do we need to reconnect them? 

“We live in a time we cannot afford perching from assumptions. Often the loudest voices are talking about God as if God is not in the room.”

“We need to preach with something theological at stake, for that is at the heart of incarnation preaching.”

“Faith is not a point, it is a presence.”

“Biblical texts were meant to be heard, not read. When we read it, we don’t listen to it.”

“Sermons are not papers.”

“Our job is not to figure out if our sermon is good or not, that’s up to God, we are called to be faithful.”

Matt Skinner

Matt’s sermon was on the text Matthew 9:35-10:23. As a New Testament scholar it was filled with excellent information and insight into Matthew’s world view. Matthew’s community’s concern was reflected in their need to know they were safe or right. The tendency was to be careful as to who was part of the community and who was not. 

“The history of the church tends to be preoccupation with that’s that stop our wonder and stifles our faith. ”

“Fear is an idolaty’s most effective evangelist.”

“What is the lasting good of the this gospel/ Christ promises to be with us always.”

Adam Hamilton

Adam has a new book out, but the workshop I attended was focused preaching. He said, “I am constantly looking for ways to do it better and new ways to engage the world and the congregation better.”

David Lose

David’s lecture was about Proclaiming Truth in an Alt-Fact World. This whole week actually has been about how to proclaim the gospel, the good news in a world where it is very difficult to discern what is “real” and what is “news.”

“The internet has fulfilled its promise that anyone can create information, disseminate it and create a following. We are also in an age of information overload.” 

“Because of our information overload, we tend to react to that information and fill our news feeds only with those who confirm our own bias.”

“It is now difficult to standardize or legitimize our sources, and our own processes and information may not be well vetted.”

“How do we proclaim truth when truth is completely and utterly contested?” 

HERE WAS PERHAPS THE BEST THINGS HE SAID AFTER THAT QUESTION:   I Don’t KNOW.

“Using facts and figures and trying to argue doesn’t change anyone’s mind, but stories do.Often when I tend to preach on justice around an issue I care about, it paints everyone who disagrees with me unjust.”

“What can we do? Primarily, we proclaim God’s presence and love and grace for all of us. we witness to Jesus as best we can in word and deed.”

Thursday evening was Beer and Hymns with the Fleshpots of Egypt! So much fun and it was amazing to hear that many voices raised in song. A couple of pictures from that event:


And a video (not great, but gives a sense of what happened.

To say my heart and soul are filled would be an understatement. I am energized and ready to get back to church and to work. I say it often enough, I am so honored and privileged each week to serve as a pastor. It is a gift to be given space to get away and learn and grow. 

Only in Texas, I suspect, would there be “fortune tacos.” I received one on Tuesday and slipped in my bag. 

I finally opened it up last evening and this is what it said:

I guess it is. I am so grateful to Lutheran Seminsary and all those who helped make the Festival of Homiletics possible.

I am graced to serve

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Festival of Homiletics, Wednesday’s thoughts

Having been several times, I know the Festival is always filled with so many good speakers and workshops and opportunities. I also know that sometimes the ones I choose may not be all I hoped. The words of the priest from Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark go through my head, “Choose Wisely” and then the next line, “he choose poorly.” I don’t think, really, there are poor choices at the Festival, but that doesn’t mean I am not sometimes disappointed. Yet, I probably won’t change my way of choosing. If I have heard someone before, even if they are spectacular, I will often opt to listen to a newer speaker, someone I am not familiar with. Sometimes it hits, sometimes it doesn’t, but I suspect those who as “so good” may not have been that good the first time. Like one speaker said yesterday a preacher should be in the same category as “artist.”

Having said that, other than one speaker, I was absolutely moved yesterday by the preaching and the workshops. Some of my notes from yesterday with an acknowledgement they are as close to direct quotes as possible! If you want to get some other highlights, you can tracke the festival on Twitter:  #festivalofhomiletics2017

Raquel St. Clair Lettsome is an amazing preacher, powerful, articulate and brought me to tears. That is saying something, I don’t cry often. As she began her sermon she said something I really resonated with, perhaps most preachers do:

I am not a marathon runner or long distance runner, but I get in a couple of miles everyday. I swear the longest. Walk I ever take is from my chair to the pulpit! 

Her take on the Good Samaritan story was powerful and is beyond my ability to recount. However she noted:

In the Good Samaritan story, while the others walked by the Samaritan came close, that didn’t mean he was safe, he just felt safe in that moment. He might have scars from his own encounters on the Jericho road, but broken hurting people are not exempted from carrying other broken bodies. We need more Samaritans to come close to help one another especially when it is risky, we need them close enough to hear, to help and to heal.

Micah Jackson is a preaching professor also dedicated to the wellness of clergy. He noted that if preachers believe it is good for their folk to hear the word broken up and preached regularly, the same applies to the preacher!  He said:

“If this week feels like a cool drink of Walter on a hot Texas day, that’s how it is supposed to be for your soul.”

His presentation was on conversational preaching. 

“It is not enough to say something, maybe the congregation has. A role: people need to hear and have their lives transformed.”

“It is the cooperative principles: everyone in the conversation understand that they are cooperating the in process. There are several conversation partners: the scripture, the news, what is happening in your community and in the world, the Spirit.”

“In worship everyone gets a turn to speak: prayers, the liturgy, the choir, the soloist and musicians, the sermon and if done right even the congregation.”

Lisa Thompson preached on Ezekiel 37 and the dry bones. 

“How do you know what you know? You don’t until you do.” 

“God invites us to come and play, come and make life with God. God will not let us back off, once the Spirit breathes into us, we can’t back up,, we are called to proclaim life, to Speak Life, Pursue Life, Let the life giving Spirit in.”

Otis Moss III used my favorite modern mythology “Star Wars” to lecture on the call of the preachers. So many quotable sentences, some of my favorites:

“Both the Sith and the Jedi draw from the same power, the difference is perspective, most of us want to be Jedi, but we tend to be chaplains for the Empire, not prophets of the Rebellion.”

“Preachers all struggle with the dark side want to be liked and are afraid that people will leave. Ever preacher will have some one leave sooner or later and if no one has left, you are no preacher.”

“At best we plant seeds and we may not every see the tree that grows or eat the fruit, but we have eaten the fruit that others have planted and the least we can do is plant for those who follow.”

“We are Sith and Jedi, dark and light we have Jedi potential and Sith tendencies. We need a amaster to teach us, the good news is that Jesus doesn’t mind teaching people with Sith tendencies.”

“Preachers should be artists, poets and painters. Every sermon should be a work of art.”

I bought some books and a couple of stoles which is the other wonderful reason to be here, the resources available.

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Festival of Homiletics, First Night and Day

I am attending the Festival of Homiletics in San Antonio, Texas for the next few days. It began on Monday evening and I have many notes and have instagramed some photos as well as “tweeted” out a few comments. This is my fourth or fifth time of attending. The best of the best “preachers” are highlighted and they lecture and preach usually using the lectionary but not always.

The event is fun, amazing, overwhelming and I always come away re-energized for ministry. It is not possible to hear everyone, so I have to pick and choose who I want to experience each time. Monday night Walter Brueggemann preached and he was powerful. He was followed by Rob Bell who is provocative and creative. 

My take away from Monday:

“Our evangelical metric is not building or numbers or budgets or pensions: IT IS THE NEIGHBORHOOD. The weakness and vulnerability of God as experienced in the cross is filled with transformative power.” 1 Corinthians 1: 10-31. Walter Brueggemann

“The sermon creates a space where people are hungry and thirsty for something they didn’t know they were hungry and thirsty for….in the sermon all kinds of things happen in that space that are way bigger than you and me.”    Rob Bell

My take away from Tuesday

“The context of our proclamation of the Word is that we are in a Post Truth era, we need Wisdom , Biblical wisdom. Fake news is conflictional and confirms our own bias, biblical wisdom is collaborative and acknowledges both human limits and Divine transcendence.”   Alyce McKenzie

“Preaching is always pastoral.” “In the Bible, I am always looking for something that will break my hear.” “I use feminine and masculine images and language for God not so everyone feels comfortable, but so everyone has a chance to feel uncomfortable.” “Violence and evil may have the news cycles but it doesn’t have our hearts….it doesn’t have the ture victory, Christ has the victory.”   Nadia Bolz-Weber

“The theological reason for bring the newspaper/politics into the pulpit is to make the connection between the love and justice of God and the world that needs it.” “Our people are bringing the weight of the world in with them each Sunday morning and when we ignor this we lack integrity.”  Amy Butler

I have MANY more quotes, but those are the ones residing heavily in my heart and spirit. I am excited to see what God will place in my mind and heart and spirit today.  

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Sunday’s Service, Festival of the Christian Home

Yesterday was Mother’s Day in the United States. I know that it is a complicated holiday and not the least of which has to do with the sometimes chessy card and commercials that encourage people to honor their mothers. Yesterday in worship, I preached about how this holiday filled with both joy and sorrow. In the United Methodist tradition it is called the Festival of the Christian Home which allows the focus to be on home, rather than on whether or our mothers were amazing or a mess. In my own life, I heard from my kids, on Facebook my son said I was wonderful and my daughter posted this wonderful Story People card: (on if it is on Facebook it must be true, right?!?!)


How I would like that to be true….I certainly write often enough that I long to love that was God loves and they way I see God loving and gracing the world in Jesus. In the end I do trust that the Divine Spirit is making their Home with us, in fact I am clinging to it.  Here is the service from yesterday:

http://sundaystreams.com/go/firstwichita

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Mother’s Day and All will be Well

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day in the United States. Celebrated with flowers, candy and often meals, mothers are praised and loved and remembered. However, this day can bring mixed feelings for many. Those who have longed to be mothers, grieve. Those who have lost their children to death, to disease, to addiction, to broken relationship grieve. Those who have lost their mothers to death, to addiction, to broken relationships, grieve.

I am one of those who is “motherless.” My own mother died not quite four years ago. While her transition was a good one, there are things I miss. I am sorry she was not able to see me appointed to First United Methodist Church. She worked there as a receptionist and I grew up there. She would have been thrilled for me and (not a little proud as mom.)

I am also, one of those women who happen to be a mother and a grandmother. Mother’s day becomes a joy as I celebrate the love I have for my children and grandchildren and appreciate so many women who have mothered me and mentored me throughout the years.

Today is also on some calendars the Feast Day of Julian of Norwich. There is some discrepancy as some celebrate it on May 13 and others on May 8. Since tomorrow is Mother’s day in my neck of the woods, it makes sense for me to reflect on this amazing woman today.

Julian-Norwich-2

Not much is known Julian, not even if that is her real name. What is known is that she wrote a book around 1395, the first known to be written in English by a woman. Her Revelations of Divine Love is filled with such amazing imagery and faith.

There are many sayings of Julian’s that are important to my faith journey,

” As truly God is our Father, so truly is God our Mother.”

“Our Savior is our true Mother in whom we are endlessly born and out of whom we shall never come.”

These next words, are the ones I return to again and again and again.

When I first saw that God does everything that’s done, I didn’t see sin, and I saw all is well. When God did show me sin, He said then, “All will be well.” God also said to me, “You won’t be overcome,” and these words were said adamantly, and I was convinced. They gave me certainty and strength against every tribulation that might come.
God didn’t say, “You won’t be attacked” or “You won‘t be overwhelmed” or “You won’t be upset” or “You won’t be stressed out.” No, instead He said, “You won’t be overcome.” God wants us to pay attention to His words, and always be strong in our certainty–when things are going well and when things are going terribly–God wants us to love Him and delight in Him and trust in Him with all our heart, and all will be well.

All will be well. All will not perfect or fun or wonderful. Julian lived in times of great uncertainty, illness, pain. Out of that experience she was able to speak of great strength, comfort and love. Her words centuries later still speak of a Divine Love that never lets us go. A love that is with us in life and in death and in life beyond death. A love that promises each of us that we are beloved and graced beyond anything we can imagine.

In Julian’s words: ” All shall be well, all shall be well….for there is a Force of love moving through the universe that holds us fast and will never let us go.” As I think about Mother’s Day, I pray for all to know that Force of love that will never let us go. I pray for the certainty that “all will be well and all manner of things will be well.”

The author of Second Timothy reminds him “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother and your mother and now in you….rekindle the gift of God that is within you.”   Jesus, in the gospel of John states, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”  The promise is that God is at work within each of us, by the faith given us by mothers and grandmothers and mentors and by living out Jesus’ command to love God and love one another. The Force of Love makes its home with us and in us…and all will be well.

As a motherless child, as a mother, a grandmother, an aunt and a friend, I am certain that God loves me and loves us all. In that certainty, I trust that God is rekindling the gift of grace and love within me.  As I remember and give thanks for the mothers and grandmothers who have offered me love and faith, I  am graced to serve.

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Fourth Sunday of Easter

Yesterday, we celebrated the fourth Sunday of Easter. I know, I know, most people are done after the first Sunday, but I am one that loves celebrations and I just think it is sad we get all dressed up and excited over new life for one day.

The Gospels only share six or seven post Easter encounters. Yesterday, I focused on the appearance of Jesus on the road to Emmaus. In the lectionary, it was read the Third Sunday of Easter, but I wanted it to pair up with the sacrament and celebration of communion, so I moved it. I am liturgically “flexible” that way!

I am grateful that I don’t have to go somewhere special, or go through some sort of spiritual gymnastics for Jesus to appear on the road. Yesterday’s service was on Life Lessons: Ticket to Ride, Seeing Jesus along the way.

You can watch the service in it’s entirety here:  Life Lessons from the Games we Play

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For the Love of Jesus, Not on my watch

A couple of weeks ago I watched the movie La La LandI always have good intentions seeing a movie IN the theatre, but more often than not, I watch it at home. I am a sucker for a good musical. I realize that life is not one dance number or musical number after another, but I enjoy dance and music and a few moments that are not filled with snarkiness.

La La Land received great reviews and numerous awards. In some ways it was like every other musical and in others it was full of surprises. I was caught how in the twenty first century a film musical could be made filled with both the old and new.

In fact, I was so caught by one scene, that I had planned on blogging about it prior to my post on the Judicial Council decision. I knew this post could wait, because in some ways, it also is about the church, where we are and where we might go together.

In the movie, Sebastian takes Mia to a jazz club. She has already told him “I should probably tell you I hate jazz.” To which he replies: “What do you mean you don’t like jazz?” She says, “It means that when I listen to it I don’t like it.” The link to the scene lets you see the whole dialogue including what happens at the jazz club.

There, Sebastian says, “I think when people say they don’t like jazz they don’t have context, they don’t know where it comes from…..people spoke five different languages, they couldn’t talk to each other, the only way they could communicate was with jazz.” Mia had a very different understanding of jazz, her life, her experience was that it was relaxing and good for parties but didn’t have the depth or the history or the tradition. Sebastian responds: “You have to see it to understand it….Everyone is composing, rearranging and writing AND playing the melody. Jazz is conflict and compromise, it’s always new, every night it is new and it very exciting…..and it’s dying. The world said let it die, ….not on my watch.”

Those words shocked me into a realization about how I feel about the church. Insert church for jazz and that is how I understand and experience the community of faith. When I think about Pentecost, people spoke in different languages, but it was the gift of the Spirit that allowed them to communicate, that Spirit that Jesus’ promised. The early church was in conflict and it comprised and it continued to compose, rearrange, write AND play the melody of the story of faith. Unfortunately the other history of the church is to try to set things in stone and forget the amazing movement of the Spirit to lead the people in new ways. We sometimes quit composing, rearranging and playing the melody and then our conflict becomes so cemented that we can’t compromise.

Many look at the church and just say “I don’t like it, I hate it.” With good reason people feel that way, they have been hurt and abused and have no need to continue experiencing that. Some people feel the church is out of touch, is boring and might be okay for “background music” at an event, as a value to toss about or proclaim somehow they are part of a “church” so they can check off something on a list, but it has nothing to do with what I think “real” church is about.

Like jazz, many do not know the full history or tradition of the church, not all of which is nice or lovely. Some of our past is downright ugly and hateful. I am always amazed that God uses fragile and flawed human beings to bring a reign of justice, of righteousness, of equality and of peace. Grace abounds, not because the church always plays the “right notes” but because God is God and through Jesus challenges us to love. Jesus was constantly playing the melody, and composing and rearranging and writing. His jazz interpretation caused him a great deal of trouble and eventually his creativity was threatening enough to get him arrested, tried and executed. Again, his rearranging and composing meant he played a new melody that we call resurrection.

I believe the church is called into being a new creation, always new, “every night” and every day called into newness of life and love. Jesus leads the way, not being set into stone, but being made a new creation. The melody is “God’s love and grace” and each generation must re-write, re-arrange and compose so that others might know and experience that love and grace.

This is not an easy task. There are many that would claim this can not be done. We must either tell the “old old story” the way it has always been told, or we walk away and give up. That may be extreme, but I don’t tend to believe it is either/or. I do not believe I am alone in believing that the gospel, the good news of God’s love as experienced in Christ Jesus is dead, or irrelevant. I believe it is every changing and ever new for each generation. The church is challenged to not ONLY play the melody, but to rearrange, to re write and to compose new songs. The church is conflicted and it is in the composing that we can find compromises that lead us into new life.

In the words of the movie, “the world says let it die….not on my watch.” I am not willing to let the grace and love of God be stuck in old ways, in ways that do not connect with a new generation. The United Methodist Church may be in some ways dying, but I am not willing to let it die. For the love of Jesus, not on my watch, not while I have life and breath and faith that in Christ I am made new and the story, the melody is new every day and every night. For all the dreamers, I am committed to the love, the grace and the melody that Christ is creating for all people.

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